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Dublin: 3°C Sunday 28 February 2021

Nadal sees off Kyrgios in four-set grudge match, Serena Williams recovers to progress

Kyrgios branded the umpire a ‘disgrace’, caught out his opponent with an audacious under-arm serve…and exited Wimbledon.

Rafa Nadal celebrates.
Rafa Nadal celebrates.
Image: Adam Davy

RAFAEL NADAL ENDURED an ill-tempered and thrilling clash with Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon to progress to the third round, winning 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 on Centre Court. 

The clash was billed as a grudge match of sorts, freighted with enmity since Nadal accused Kyrgios of a lack of respect for supposedly taking a serve before the Spaniard was ready to face it at the Mexican Open in February.

Kyrgios added further fuel to the rivalry in May, when he called Nadal “super-salty” in a podcast interview. 

Nadal made a blistering start to this match, with Kyrgios only shocking himself into life with an audacious under-arm serve that dropped Nadal’s side of the net. 

The Spaniard nonetheless took the first set, while Kyrgios fought his own, ancillary battles. In a recurring feud with the umpire, the Australian branded the official a “disgrace” for failing to penalise Nadal for playing slowly between points. It earned Kyrgios a code violation. 

The Australian recovered to take the second set, but it was Nadal who took the third after a tie-break; the temperature of the match evident in the vigour of Nadal’s celebration, which was far more enthusiastic than you might expect from a two-time champion amid a second-round match. 

Kyrgios settled and again pushed Nadal all the way to a tie-break for the fourth set, but he began it poorly, finding himself 3-0 down. Nadal ultimately took it 7-3, and advances to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round.

Elsewhere, seven-time champion Serena Williams survived a scare to come through and reach the third round of the women’s singles, beating Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The 37-year-old American — bidding to join Margaret Court with a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title — struggled to impose herself on an opponent ranked 133 in the world.

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“She played well and then I started out a little slow,” said Williams.

“It brings the best out of me the pressure. I play best when I am down sometimes. I am a fighter I never give up.”

Juvan showed few signs of nerves despite the reputation of her rival and being on Court One.

Wimbledon 2019 - Day Four - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Serena Williams. Source: Mike Egerton

Williams made countless errors — netting normally easy volleys and loose forehands — allowing Juvan to keep her hopes alive even when she drew level at one set all.

The American, whose season has been affected by a knee problem, looked to be in control serving for the match having broken the 18-year-old twice.

The Slovenian, who beat star American teenager Coco Gauff to qualify for the French Open this year, fought mightily to break her. Williams, however, made no errors at the second opportunity serving for the match winning it to love.

Additional reporting by © – AFP, 2019

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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